Objective: Deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) patients are understudied in emergency medicine health services research. Theory and limited evidence suggest that DHH patients are at higher risk of emergency department (ED) utilization and poorer quality of care. This study assessed ED condition acuity, length of stay (LOS), and acute ED revisits among DHH patients. We hypothesized that DHH patients would experience poorer ED care outcomes.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of a single health care system using data from a large academic medical center in the southeast United States. Data were received from the medical center's data office, and we sampled patients and encounters from between June 2011 and April 2020. We compared DHH American Sign Language (ASL) users (n = 108), DHH English speakers (n = 358), and non-DHH English speakers (n = 302). We used multilevel modeling to assess the differences among patient segments in outcomes related to ED use and care.
Results: As hypothesized, DHH ASL users had longer ED LOS than non-DHH English speakers, on average 30 min longer. Differences in ED condition acuity, measured through Emergency Severity Index and triage pain scale, were not statistically significant. DHH English speakers represented a majority (61%) of acute ED revisit encounters.
Conclusions: Our study identified that DHH ASL users have longer ED LOS than non-DHH English speakers. Additional research is needed to further explain the association between DHH status and ED care outcomes (including ED LOS and acute revisit), which may be used to identify intervention targets to improve health equity.
Keywords: condition acuity; deaf and hard-of-hearing; emergency department; health care quality; length of stay.
© 2022 The Authors. Academic Emergency Medicine published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Academic Emergency Medicine.